Vic Boone Review: "Malfunction Murder"
“You’ll be hard pressed to walk away feeling like the experience was anything other than wonderful and unique.”
“Life is like an engine.” That is how the words of Vic Boone begin Malfunction Murder, the lead story of the Vic Boone collection by the same name. This graphic novel also contains the stories Nuns & Bolts, Trouble: A Head, Mechanical Mayhem, A Better You and the guest-written That Handsome Devil. Back to that singular effect of Vic Boone: “Life is like an engine.” Vic is talking about the motorcycle he rides through the fictionalized future of Portland, OR. He is also talking about himself, the continuing motion of his life as a private investigator, and even Alridge’s construction of his Vic Boone stories as a narrative.
Let’s begin with Vic. He’s attractive the same as a motorcycle and its engine heart pumping at the core. It’s difficult to explain why they are so enticing, both of them. Why be attracted to a motorcycle? They’re loud, they’re dangerous and they need constant attention & maintenance to keep them from a total break down. Though, they are fun, and so are the stories of Vic Boone. Why be attracted to Vic? Why keep coming back to this broken down man who is loud, dangerous, and constantly skirting the edge of complete destruction. Despite these there is vibration of life and energy. He rumbles on despite his problems in the arc of an anti-tragedy.
In the tragic arc is a specific one and includes the likes of Macbeth, Battlestar Galactica, The Rake’s Progress, Starship Titanic, Edopis Rex, The Martian Chronicles, Lord of the Flies and One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest. When a protagonist comes to a crisis action where they must make a choice they make one fueled by their hubris. Each time they are left in a worse position than before. These noir stories, and their heroes, are so often similar. With one notable difference. When these pulpy private investigators continue on their destructive path they mostly succeed. Their lives are often in a worse position than when they started, but the case is solved and the immediate conflict resolved.
This feeds into why they are so fun to us as a reader. We can watch a character sputter through life just the same as we do, break down just as we do, make mistakes just a little like we do. They carry on into the future just as we have to every day.
“What then is left when the human condition is replaced?”
Vic Boone’s world is the future. In it is a population of robots out of Lost in Space, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and The Terminator. Space creatures out of black & white science fiction movies walk the streets with mutants from the mind of David Cronenberg. Each picked out of there specific place and time as they viewed the future and its horrors to be. Envisioned pieces of the future each, and living together cycling there own lives just the same as Vic. The fear at the core of the human condition is here on display just the same as it has been through past decades and centuries.
The same fears from the past, the same as the present and continuing in the future. Fear of the Other and isolation in a place of security. Isolation from the future in a past filled dressed with blue jeans, white crew cut t-shirts, leather jackets, the loud hum of the motorcycle machine and a wide open highways before it. All gone, but all still here in the form of Vic Boone. Fear of being replaced. Replacement from the Other: replacement by a robot that never gets tired, replacement of our bodies as we learn to create improved versions of ourselves, replacement of the connection we feel with our partners by another. What then is left when the human condition is replaced?
We hold onto what is ours in our present. The same as Vic holds onto his motorcycle in a world that continues to travel on with or without his consent. The same as we hold onto so much from the fifties and sixties still. We live in the future every day, but remain in our present despite it. We have amazing technology all around us derived from every corner of science fiction in the last hundred years. It’s all here, but the past hasn’t been discarded whole cloth. The past is still here, too. Old robots stand next to new ones, and the Vic Boones of the world stand right next to bigger, stronger iterations of themselves.
The life of a private investigator is interesting. Just the same as a motorcycle, but just as difficult to describe why. It reminds us now that we aren’t lost as people even as the backdrop around us changes.
It isn’t one thing that makes makes Vic Boone good. In fact, when you break it down to its parts it is to come away empty. Break down a motorcycle the same way. Take it apart and look closely, and all that you will be left with are crude parts. Put them together, though, and take a ride. You’ll be hard pressed to walk away feeling like the experience was anything other than wonderful and unique.
Purchase Vic Boone: Malfunction Murder here.